Thursday, July 17, 2008

Giant Gorilla by Marusan

As promised, here I bring you these fugly guys: Giant Gorilla (ジャイアントゴリラ) by Marusan (マルサン). These are virtually the same across all colorways, so I will write about them all at once. Come to think of it, that is probably a better idea than how I have been doing it if i plan to show off the same sculpt in different colors right around the same time.

I had a quote in the Buta No Hana Gorilla article explaining Toho's hesitancy in allowing companies to make toys called King Kong, and instead the vinyl toys manufacturers made giant gorillas to avoid any potential legal problems with Universal.

I found some Marusan history in the Super7 Mook (a great resource for these as well as Secret Base and Real Head toys by the way) that was released late last year.

Marusan was in the midst of a kaiju boom in the mid-1960s thanks to many movies and the Ultra-Q show on television, and Marusan moved from tin and plastic toys to the cheaply and quickly produced vinyl toys. The company produced vinyl toys from 1966 to 1969, but eventually closed and were bought out by three former employees who went on to form Bullmark.

The Giant Gorilla was made in 1967, originally in a dark blue color and perhaps others that I do not know about. All of my Giant Gorillas are reproductions that Marusan produced from the original molds in the 1990s. There is a large brown one out there that I have yet to come across, but I have a spare blue one so maybe I'll just get to painting!

This gorilla rides the border between official Toho monsters that Marusan released and their completely original offerings that came later on. Masusan not only released these, but other of their original sculpts in the 90s.

Header //3 out of 5//:
While the painted header is really cool, Marusan really just offers up what seems to be a generic header with the name of the toy inside printed in the top right corner on the front. On the front you get to see a Thor type character giving a swift flying chop to an evil chicken, then some generic monsters swooping in to fight or fornicate on the back.

The header is larger than most I have seen... similar width but about twice as deep.

If the header had more to do with the toy inside, I would like it a lot better. The imagery is very cool.

Sculpt //3 out of 5//:
Despite my simian bias, I will be the first to admit that this is a pretty crude sculpt.

The mouth is not quite a mad roar and not quite a smile. The facial expression does not say angry as I expect a giant gorilla to be. He just looks kind of bored or possibly like he is singing off key....

...about gorilla stuff...

I like the bulky look of the hands and feet, but the arms in particular feel crooked in a way. The hands come off the forearms less like a menacing fist and more like he is saying YAAAAY while shaking his fists in excitement.

It seems perhaps that the sculptor was going for some semblance of realism with the sculpt as evidenced by the legs. Gorillas have very small hind legs compared to their arms, and walk using not only their feet but their knuckles. The legs here seem so be aiming for that shortness with a giant ass (common theme with gorilla toys?). Since the gorilla is standing on two feet as opposed to two feet and two knuckles, it makes the legs a little crooked and awkward.

All of this said, the sculpt is very endearing to me. This toy was not made for geeky collectors like me, but rather for kids to buy en masse and tear up in their sand boxes and bathtubs. And for this, it is great! It is stylized enough to be fun and original and not just a gorilla statue, and the small details like the tiny teeth, fur, toenails, nipples etc. bring it all together.

It is very solid and well balanced. The arms are positioned perfectly to lay a big punch on an invading Godzilla... the mouth is open for roars and bites. These apes would make great playthings.

Paint //3 out of 5//:
Average all around. These gorillas were originally mass produced, so simple, direct paint jobs were going to work best. Lots of paint would just get chipped off on the playground anyway. These reproductions are made to just reflect the paint jobs of the originals.

The blue gorilla is obviously cast in blue vinyl, and from what I can tell is the closest to the original color (which was a darker blue). There is yellow on the chest for contrast, and red eyes and tongue.

The gold might be my favorite with the silver spray on his chest and red eyes and tongue here too.

And the pink has a very similar color scheme to my pink Buta No Hana gorilla with yellow on the chest as well and gold eyes! The yellow on the chest here is a little oversprayed onto the armpit, which is always a little disappointing.

All of them have the same silver teeth.

Coolness //4 out of 5//:
I like that they are awkward and ugly... and knowing the history of these adds to the coolness for me. I can totally geek out and talk about it with someone who might ask.

Value //5 out of 5//:
These do not seem all that popular or hard to find (except maybe the brown one floating around. You should be able to find these for 10-15 dollars each which is a fantastic price for such a solid piece. I have never seen a vintage one, but be prepared to pay much much more for one of those.

Overall //3.75 out of 5//:
Positives: Bulky, fun to play with, history, can find them on the cheap

Negatives: Awkward gorilla shapes, generic paint jobs, take up a lot of space

These are great to have for the history behind them, or if you want them to punch the shit out of your other monsters. If you like the look and can find it for cheap, it's definitely worth the pick up. But otherwise, you won't miss it much in your collection.

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